WATERTOWN, S.D. (KELO) — When someone dials 911 for help, they may hear LeeAnn Benthin’s voice on the other end.
She’s a lead communications officer at the Watertown Regional 911 Center.
“Whether it’s somebody’s worst day or some major emergency or if it’s an everyday thing that someone just needs help, ‘Who do I contact for this situation? I’m not sure where to start.’ It feels good to be able to help,” Lead communications officer LeeAnn Benthin said.
Now, Benthin and other dispatchers serving the 911 Center’s six-county region have another tool for communicating with callers.
It’s called Prepared Live.
The Watertown Regional 911 Center added the technology in September.
One of its functions allows 911 callers to livestream with dispatchers.
“Once we have reached a spot in the call where a dispatcher, if they have more questions, they can actually send a link to the caller’s phone, which the caller has to approve and once they approve then the dispatcher is able to see exactly what the caller is seeing,” Watertown Regional 911 Center manager Troy VanDusen said.
Watertown Regional 911 Center manager Troy VanDusen placed a demonstration call into the Center to show how it works.
Once he clicked the link, Benthin was able to see a real-time view from his phone.
Once the dispatcher gets that additional information, they can relay it to first responders.
“We’ve used it for fires, we’ve used it for rollover accidents on the interstate where people are trapped in vehicles, to give us a good idea of what information the officers need before they arrive on scene,” VanDusen said.
“I think it’s going to help the officers a lot, dispatchers to be able to let responders know if there’s any danger on the scene that maybe isn’t verbalized, but we can see it,” Benthin said.
VanDusen says a dispatcher was even able to livestream with a passenger in a pursuit.
The live video let authorities know a child was in the vehicle.
VanDusen calls the technology a game changer.
“Having the ability to livestream video into our center so our dispatchers can see exactly what’s going on and put them right on scene with a caller is very crucial. The information is so crucial to get to our responders,” VanDusen said.
Benthin hasn’t used Prepared Live on a real call yet, but she knows it can make a difference.
“We want the clearest picture to be able to relay to the responders so they know what they’re getting into. That’s probably the number one goal,” Benthin said.
It’s one more tool Benthin and other dispatchers have to help keep local communities safe.
The Watertown Police Department says the 911 Center is one of the first in the state to use the technology.
Prepared Live is not a state-supported program.